The Glacial Sky of Cascadia in the Morning

This is not an image of mountains, not of what rises or mounts, but what held against the ice that cut all else away.

The Coast Mountains

The ice is now air. Humans, bears,  martins,  squirrels, eagles and bobcats, to name a few, pass through it: the people of the ice. Nice.

No More Wild Fires Please

It is a catastrophic summer in the Interior of British Columbia. Close to 15,000 people have been evacuated from their communities. Indigenous communities who refuse to leave are isolated. Read about the grim situation at Anaham here: http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/first-nations-community-holds-on-as-fire-threatens The question of why these people have chosen to stay in the face of catastrophic fire, isolation and great danger can be answered only in troubling ways. They are, however, simple enough. The tsilqhot’in are this place of fire. There is no evacuation. A lot of this has to do with a century and a half of great cultural hurt, but there’s a positive story here as well. Perhaps this image from the height of this land, at the crest of the Yellowstone Plume, in the great caldera that is the heart of winter …

…and fire on this continent and which anchors our country, Cascadia, like the eye of a pool in one of her rivers displays something of the answer:

A pine rooting on the face of the cooled molten plume, from this post about my journey to the height of the land: https://okanaganokanogan.com/2015/09/28/cascadia-land-of-fire/

If we call these uncontrollable and violent fires “wild fires”, we are participating in the environmental destruction that has created them rather than in the solutions that will control them. Until then, they will remain gothic and destructive, like the nineteenth century creations that they are. At the moment, of course, we must protect our homes and our loved ones, with all the vigour we can bring to this terrifying and important work, but let’s do it in a way that leads directly to the future that must follow this catastrophe of environmental mismanagement. Let’s call these fires by their correct names. They are not wild. Fire lives in this plateau. Smoke, such as obscured Okanagan Lake below, is the natural form of summer here.

Through neglect to honour fire’s primary place, it has been called into violent incarnation by excess fuel. The explosive sage below, above my house, is a bomb waiting to explode, and it’s the creation of bad resource policy. It can be fixed. We will have to be doing this in the next few years.

 

 

To say these horrific fieres are wild, is to say that an abstract notion of fire is fire’s base state, and that fire that escapes the boundaries of the controls of intellectual understanding is “wild”. That’s insulting. In Cascadia, wild fire control began a bit more than a century ago, to protect the nationalized forests made out of depopulated native space for the benefit of industrial and recreational use. This management regime was a replacement for indigenous fire management, in land forcibly removed from indigenous control. The indigenous understanding was based on living within space. The replacement, modern civilization, declared the land wild and foreign to human consciousness. That was a lie. Fire remains far bigger than any human or any collection of humans. Perhaps the image below of when the grassland hill above my house burnt a few years back and the fire turned to life within a few weeks can illustrate the edges of the tsilqhot’in resistance to evacuation. Within a few weeks, this:

Nootka Rose Sprouting from Cooked Rock

Let’s bring the irresistible force of living and destructive and creative fire within our social group and develop strategies to tame it. It’s coming to us anyway, horrifically. Yes, let’s save our homes, our farms, our communities, our forests, and our lives with all the effort we can bring to it, but let’s then move on to build a society that recognizes that fire is the natural state of this place.The failure to create civilized, or artful, fire within organic environments such as grasslands and forests, except at moments of catastrophe when fire sweeps in waves across the land due to being ignored for too long and its potential disrespected, is also a created state, but not one of which we should in any way be proud. And I want to be proud of how we live with fire. This work can wait until the crisis is over, but we can start now in a small way, by throwing away that awful racist term: wild fire. The time for that was 160 years ago, two weeks ago, today, and tomorrow. Fire is here to stay. Let’s hope we are too.

 

 

 

A Short History of Whiteness in Cascadia

It’s not a physical thing.

Apricot in Her White Gown

White is a tricky, racial word. Here’s a small piece of a meditation on it from my book in progress, Commonage: The War for the Okanagan.

In English in these parts between Northern Oregon and Alaska and Western Montana to Haida Gwaii, “White” applies to people of Caucasian background, as long as both of their parents are Caucasian; people whose parents might include a Scots Hudson’s Bay Company trapper and a Cree woman from Manitoba are deemed to have negated all “White” rights, or at least it started out that way. People such as Hudson Bay Company Factor Peter Skene Ogden’s wife Julia, whose parents were Sanpoil and Nez Perce yet who was raised by a French Canadian-Cree trapper after her mother’s second marriage, was accorded civilized rights by the British but not by the Americans. People such as the Oblate missionary Charles Pandosy, who came to love the Yakama and despise the Americans yet betrayed the Yakama to the US Army in 1855 to protect it from a war it could not win, was occasionally accorded “White” status, despite being Catholic, but Father Nobili, who built a mission at the Head of the Lake Village at a) Nk’mp, or Osoyoos Lake, b) Garnet Valley, or Summerland, or c) Head of the Lake on Okanagan Lake, in 1840, wasn’t, probably because he was Italian, and Italians weren’t “White” in those days, although they are now. It was all very complicated. From an indigenous perspective, “White” actually applies to the dried white salmon of Mnassatas Creek, where this story took the form of a fish and saved Pandosy from starvation brought on by his own ignorant notion that he was living in a wilderness. This salmon was white because sockeye salmon harvested far up in their watersheds, when they’ve gone into their red spawning colours and have devoured all the fat in their bodies after a long journey, develop a white crust over their red flesh when split the traditional Yakama way and dried in the wind. So, yeah, if the Yakama were calling a man a “White,” they probably meant the red sunburn he got out in the shrub steppe and the white, peeling scab that followed a few days later.
No doubt, the Yakama knew the Christian symbol, Ichthos the fish, and stories of Christ as the Fisher of Men in the “wilderness” of the desert of Galilee. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Swapping fish stories would be a good connection for any missionary trying to convert fishermen in the “wilderness” of the Columbia Plateau — a country in which salmon were people, in an age in which the children of salmon fishers were dressed in white to be baptised by priests. Some jokes are too good to pass up.

 

Where the Mountains Become Water

In my country, the rivers are born in the mountains. Here is born the Missouri, the Columbia, the Fraser and all their ancestors and all their daughters.

This particular mother is the Cascades: a sea bed melted in the deep earth and lifted into the sky by a younger sea. Look at its wave break in a crest of foam.

This is one of the old ones of the Columbia, the Washaptum. Here, the mountains become water again. Note how they turn to eggs of stone. Look how the current is the flick of a salmon’s tail. Look how the sun comes in waves. This is the wave trough. It is like the call of a whale.

Look how the water and the rock braid together in these depths. This is the deepest floor of the sun.

Look how water and sun and stone and sea mingle and part and mingle again in these depths. That’s how it’s done.

Since the beginning of civilization, long before the pharaohs, Owhi’s people, the Pisquouse, came here to meet the salmon the mountains were calling out of the distant Pacific where they fed on the sun. This is the power song. This is where fish make people.

Come, they called.

Come and be born.

These are the eggs of humans, as the mountains make them.

This is a man rising from the stream to breathe his sun.

This is what he sees when he looks back to his birth. This his mind and heart. These are his children’s children’s children’s children, calling for him to help them be born.

This is what we do here in Cascadia.

We are being born. Sometimes it means writing stories about all of this on our ancestral rocks, just as the pines do. Here the fish are born from the mind that is born from minding the fish.

Everything else is the dying. Does this sound fanciful to you? OK. What about this?

Poisoning the earth down the road from my house, in the Columbia Headwaters at Head of the Lake.

Maybe you like your royal gala apples with poison. When Woody Guthrie, the Traitor, sang his song, “Roll on Columbia…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20ZffI6by3A
This is the impounded river: a chain of shipping locks full of southern, warm water salmon-egg-eating-fish.

… he bragged that the Columbia River, the great salmon river of the world, would live on in the electrical grid, translated into pure energy. That’s part of that above. Here’s some more, on the Okanagan Lake Shore:

That’s what these stones …

… look like after Woody’s betrayal. Let us love each other again.

Let us be the children of the mountains again.

The Pacific Northwest is Not the Southwest

Here’s a place. Squeezed in between the United States and Greenland. Canada.canada-relief-map

Best to stand right-way up.
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Lately, I’ve heard the strangest thing.  I’ve heard that my part of the country…canada-relief-map

… is called the Southwest. The Canadian Southwest. This was in reference to the name the region often goes by: the Pacific Northwest. Here it is in 1844, just before the 49th Parallel Canadian border (pink and grey on the right) was drawn across it, cutting it in two.

800px-pacific-northwest

That’s an American view, on an American military map. You can see the remnants of the Canadian Northwest in the following image (note the blue oval). As you can see, it goes right up into the Arctic. In fact, a quarter century ago, it was all of the Canadian Arctic, right up to Greenland.

canada-relief-map

If you didn’t know the place, you might think this Southwest Canada stuff made sense. Ah, that’s where politics come in. For Instance, in 1752, the best map looked like this:

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Note the big sea where there is no sea.

north

Basically, this part of North America (under that sea that is not a sea but possibly a memory of glacial melt events 12,000 years ago) is un-mapped. Here it is (below) in 1756. As you can see, no map of the region at all, really.

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And 1795. By this time the coast is mapped…but nothing else. As I mentioned above, there is a name for this “empty space.” It is the Pacific Northwest.preview

It comes by this name along two routes. First, as the map below shows well, it is Northwest of what was then the centre of European civilization in North America, the Caribbean, which was colonized by the Spanish in 1492.3213606740_9e642903a4_o

Yup, that’s where I live: in Parts Unknown. Note the totally inaccurate Columbia River at the bottom, but, hey, at least it’s there.

unknown

This was a continent controlled by Spain (Southwest) and France (Northeast, and the centre of the continent, right down to the Gulf of Mexico), with tiny English colonies on the East Coast (later the United States) and an English trading area in the Far North. Much of Southern New France eventually went to Spain, and from there to the United States, in the Louisiana Purchase. Much of New Spain went to the United States in the American-Mexican War. But that great empty area, the goal of exploration, remained the Northwest.

 

ti-mappe-america-sept-object

So, that’s the first Northwest. The second has to do with the English and French colonies on the east coast. Here’s a later map (below) of New France. In my part of the country, this is called the East, although there it is called the Centre. The English colonies are on the far right. Everything else is French.

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In other words, everything is the West, except for a narrow strip along the Atlantic. That’s the English view. The French view was that everything was the West that was West of Montreal. Here’s Montreal (below), the trading city of New France. The wealth of a continent, north, west and south, flowed through here:

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No surprise that the trading company out of Montreal was called the Northwest Company, since it traded in those regions of New France that were north of old French territory on the Gulf of Mexico. Here’s a Northwest map.

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There are many others. Here’s one from 1810 that shows the Northwest interests in today’s United States. Note that Oregon Territory (today’s Pacific Northwest) is the territory of Great Britain, the United States and Spain. Below it is Mexico. In the centre of the continent is Lousiana (now Spanish). To the right is the expanded United States, with British Territory to the North. France is out of the picture. The red arrow is St. Louis.

 

na07-copy

St. Louis was the American fur trade headquarters, for all fur trading into Louisiana and Mexico. Canadian trade was still coming West from Montreal, in what is now known as Lower Canada (in the upper right.)  By this time, the eastern part of the Northwest is now called the West (today’s Mid-West) and Louisiana is still largely French-speaking. Please note that those families did not go anywhere. They are still there, but had a new culture, and a new language, given to them by colonization from the United States. The only area unexplored at this point was that area claimed by three countries in the upper left. It was politically dangerous to explore it. It was only when Spain was knocked out of contention, and it was just a disputed region between Britain and the USA, that it was given a Name: Oregon. Or the Pacific Northwest, to distinguish it from the other Northwest, which was now in the middle of the continent. Here is my Northwest, in a satellite view. Isn’t she beautiful? We call her Cascadia now.

pacnw_satellite_cropped

She has an old history, rooted in the French people who moved across the continent and intermarried with indigenous families, and took on their cultures. The arrow shows where I am living as I talk to you about this.pacnw_satellite_cropped-copy-2

To call this the Southwest of Canada is a complete erasure of a long French history, over three centuries older than the nation state of Canada and of the history of this place. The people of this history are Canadians, with more right to the term than most citizens of the nation state. Our heritage here is primarily with people in Quebec (Lower Canada), Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Northern California and Wyoming, and secondarily with the North and with the French culture on the Prairies. Canada, the 1867 British nation state, comes a long, long, long way down the list. It’s not that we’re not proud to belong to Canada here, but our history does not live within these borders:

canada-relief-map

We’re proud of that, too, because it is that old history that makes us who we are, not the new history of a country still trying to reshape it. So, the Pacific Northwest, or Cascadia, please. We are citizens of the continent out this way.

 

 

 

Land of Beautiful Water Without Name

Lake, right?P1050165

Big lake, big fun!P1050170

Pshaw. 150 metres above that lake.

P1150539 Rocks! Not just any rocks, either.P1150538 Lake rocks, river rocks, and rocks that have fallen off a cliff, all together. We’re talking shores.
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Glacial lakes the size of seas, rivers flowing beside glacial arms, and debris carried by the glacier and dropped here when it melted, on the ancient floor of the sea…

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… which the ice rounded off nicely into waves. The image below would have been deep underwater 11,000 years ago.

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The land looks dry. With red-tailed hawks doing lovely fly-bys.

P1140386 But it’s water.

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On the Coast, water flows.

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P2280228 P2290243Here it causes flowing.

bloom p1010342 P2310454

red toe kal

Same thing. Same water. Same presence, just falling there as rain and lifting into the air here and carrying you with it.

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Some call this land Cascadia. That’s only the half of it.

~

I left names off of the images here in the hope that it would help you see them all as one.

 

What Crows Know About People in Cascadia

When Coyote trades his eyes for pebbles like Crow’s below, he can’t see a thing.P2280807

It’s very funny. Each pebble is the world.

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Hard to choose! Each one really is the world.

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In each, the world appears to a differing degree of purity, but each one is the world.

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With an eye like that you can see the forces of the universe. Nebulas, star clusters, black holes, dark matter, that kind of thing.

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But you might not see the audience.P2290460

Crow, who’s telling this joke is happy about that, because he’s having a bad hair day.

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A really bad hair day.

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And, really, he wants you to see him like this:

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In my country on the north eastern Pacific shore, this is funny stuff. The world is a joke here. It’s not something to deflate human pretensions. That’s a human pretension. Best just to laugh. You can’t hide here.P2290166

So, which one is it?

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A pair perhaps?

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One note: you can’t tell this story, because you’re in it. Here’s its author.

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As for human pretensions, they’re not funny. Oh, wait, yes they are.

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Even when they get away from themselves they do it together. Now, that’s a joke worth sharing.

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Bad hair or not.

The Gravity Forests of Cascadia

If the rainforest were heavier, it would look like this …P2270672

Rialto Beach

… because its rain would have found the depths of its gravity. The gravity boundary, where the molecular weight of water separates the heavy forest from the one climbing the air, looks like this …

P2290091

Rialto Beach

Note the tree with wings, climbing the air without roots. Her roots are wherever she finds them. So are her branches.

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Rialto Beach

Here are some of the air ladders, the vertical rivers, that make the rainforest the water world it is:

P2270073

Ozette

Once you get deep into these silent rivers, the view changes. You walk between rivers, without touching their shores.P2260932Hoh

How does this work? Well, these ladders of carbon climbing water tension into the sun leave spaces of air. You walk through those pieces of sky. In this context, they are the shadows of rivers. You’re not alone, though. Here are some club mosses and liquorice ferns whooping it up 20 metres off the ground…

P2260792

Hoh

…in the river eddies.P2260963

Eddies like this:

P2270005 Ozette

Just in the lighter forest, not that thick river one. Still, the rivers are lighter than the sea. If rain forests all laid on their sides, maybe they would look like this …

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Sol Duc/Quillayeute River Confluence

… and rain forest lakes would be their roots.

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Ozette River Leaving Ozette Lake

…and the sea …

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Rialto

… would be their branches, their sun …

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Second Beach

… and their moon.

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Quillayeute River

This moon.

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Rialto Beach

So it is in the gravity forest. It has other suns, though. Streams, for instance, that hold the sun in the darkness of the forest floor, the best place for a gravity engine:

P2270072

 

Ozette

Pools that old logs make:P2270864

Ozette

Pools that leaves make…
P2270067…with green waves washing up against them in foams of light:

P2270051

Ozette

Kind of like this, really, but lighter …

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Second Beach

There are all kinds of pools, in which water mixes with light on chains of carbon as they climb the tension of water up into the sky …

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Ozette, Second Beach and Hoh Rain Forest

The sky, of course, is everywhere between them. They are all sky creatures. So are humans.

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So are elk, who live deep in gravity’s pools.

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Hoh

Here in Cascadia, these gravity forests are made by the mountains.

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La Push

 

Across the mountains, these gravity towers make a different gravity forest…

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Peshastin Pinnacles

… where old seabeds are worn away by the wind and the gravity forest, lifted high by the roots of the mountains, comes up to your knees.

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Bella Vista

It’s still the gravity forest. It is still the shape the mountains take when they make themselves into air. It still has beautiful pools.

P2220867 The Commonage

Less moon and more sun.
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Thompson Gorge

Still at sea, though.

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Dawn, over the Commonage.

Still knotting water and gravity together.

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Still the Big Bang opening. Still the earth, flowering.

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Second Beach

Still rivers …

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Bella Vista.

Still the earth.

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Bella Vista

Still the sun.

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